About the Encounters
Re-Envisioning Japan's Object Encounters are visual explorations with minimal narration of an object or cluster of related objects. Informed by material culture studies methodology, they bridge academic inquiry and curatorial practice. They are more exploratory than explanatory, because the levels of meaning that we can derive from an object depend on the questions that we ask. These encounters are loosely based on the step-by-step process formulated by Jules David Prown in his seminal 1982 article "Mind in Matter: An Introduction to Material Culture Theory and Method" (Winterthur Portfolio 17:1, pp. 1-19). "The World's Fair in a Nutshell" is a protoype for this curatorial feature. This encounter is built around a promotional souvenir from the 1933 Chicago World's Fair. (Japan was among the nations represented at the fair, which was held to celebrate the city's centennial in 1933-1934.) This tiny object reveals the power of objects to convey information, knowledge that can complement other sources, provoke us to ask new questions, or explore new social relationships and themes. As a small object that embodies a large amount of information, it is also a synecdoche for Re-Envisioning Japan as exploratory, scholarly research that seeks to unfold the many facets of the past as it relates to Japan through the things people used to fashion identities and shape social relations.
The additional encounters now available on the site are final projects by students in my course "Tourist Japan". Following the format laid out in "The Nutshell" prototype encounter, they intersperse images and text, leading the viewer through an exploration of the object. I have only edited captions for clarity when necessary, retaining the integrity of the encounters' original descriptions and interpretations.
This is an original curatorial feature for this project, initiated in 2017. Please check this space often for new encounters.
Viewing the Encounters
Select encounters can be accessed from the homepage. The Past Encounters page (under "Encounters" on the main header menu) features assignments from 2017-2018. They were made with a customized plug-in. Click the menu bars in the upper left-hand corner of the viewer for each encounter on this page to choose options such as full screen and autoplay. Encounters from 2020-2023 can be accessed from "Recent Encounters" under "Encounters" on the main header menu. Click the encounter title in the upper left-hand corner of each encounter (or the Vimeo logo in the lower right-hand corner) to view it in full-screen mode. Only one encounter, the "American-Japanese Coloring Book," has sound (background music). It can be watched with or without its soundtrack.